Week in Review: Jan. 11

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The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Clinic Laboratories news, and upcoming events.


Industry News

Concussion-Detection Device Developed by Minnesota Doctor Gets FDA OK

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared a new medical device invented by a Twin Cities neurosurgeon to detect signs of concussion by tracking a patient's eye movements. The device, called the EyeBox, was invented by Minnesota neurosurgeon Dr. Uzma Samadani following the discovery that slight discrepancies in how a patient's eyes track an image on a screen can reveal a wealth of information about underlying brain dysfunction. Oculogica, the device's New York-based maker, commercially launched the EyeBox on Thursday after years of clinical testing led to FDA clearance on Dececember 28. The price of the device is not being disclosed. It's intended only for physician use for now. Via Star Tribune.

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Alzheimer's Disease May Develop Differently in African-Americans, Study Suggests

Scientists have found a biological clue that could help explain why African-Americans appear to be more vulnerable than white Americans to Alzheimer's disease. A study of 1,255 people, both black and white, found that cerebrospinal fluid from African-Americans tended to contain lower levels of a substance associated with Alzheimer's, researchers report in the journal JAMA Neurology. Yet, these low levels did not seem to protect black participants from the disease. The finding "implies that the biological mechanisms underlying Alzheimer's disease may be very different in [different] racial groups," says Dr. John Morris, an author of the paper and director of the Knight Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis. And if Alzheimer's works differently in African-Americans, that difference could make them more vulnerable to the disease, Morris says. The study has limitations, though, says Lisa Barnes, a cognitive neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago, who wrote an accompanying editorial. Via NPR.

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Government Shutdown Halts Some FDA Food Inspections

The U.S. food supply might be at risk because of the partial government shutdown. The Food and Drug Administration does about 160 routine food inspections a week, but since the shutdown inspections have been sharply reduced. The FDA said it is working to bring back about 150 employees to restart inspections of high-risk facilities as early as next week, but inspections of routine facilities are at a standstill. The FDA regulates about 75% of the U.S. food supply. Roughly 31% of the food they deal with is considered to be "high-risk" and includes baby formula, seafood, cheese, and produce. FDA inspectors look for issues at processing facilities like unsanitary conditions and infestations and also inspect food for salmonella and E. coli contamination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 48 million people in the U.S. get sick each year from food-borne diseases and about 3,000 of those people die. Via CBS Health.

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U.S. Cancer Death Rate Hits Milestone: 25 Years of Decline

The U.S. cancer death rate has hit a milestone: It’s been falling for at least 25 years, according to a new report. Lower smoking rates are translating into fewer deaths. Advances in early detection and treatment also are having a positive impact, experts say. But it’s not all good news. Obesity-related cancer deaths are rising, and prostate cancer deaths are no longer dropping, said Rebecca Siegel, lead author of the American Cancer Society report published. Cancer also remains the nation’s No. 2 killer. The society predicts there will be more than 1.7 million new cancer cases, and more than 600,000 cancer deaths, in the U.S. this year. Via STAT.

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Rural Iowa Roads May Harm Kids’ Health

Dust from a steel byproduct used to cover gravel roads in Muscatine County, Iowa, may be harmful to kids' health, a new report finds. Slag, a byproduct of steel manufacturing, has been used to supplement gravel on the roads. At about one-fifth the cost, it's estimated to have saved the county $1 million in gravel costs, the Des Moines Register reports. But a toxicology report found that a sample of slag from Muscatine County contained metals at levels harmful to infants, toddlers, and kids up to 18 years old. In particular, the report found manganese levels up to 124 times greater than the maximum allowable limits for children ages 3 and younger, who are more likely to ingest substances like dirt that have no nutritional value, and exposure about five times higher than what's considered safe for children between the ages of four and 18. Via U.S. News & World Report.

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Mayo Clinic News

2019 May See New Approach to Refractory Crohn's

Autologous stem cells have also proven effective for tissue healing in CD patients, but allogeneic stem cells may also have a role to play. For example, an initiative begun at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, is recruiting healthy donors to provide allogeneic stem cells to treat anal fistulas in CD patients. "With allogeneic cells you have the advantage of an off-the-shelf product to offer patients when they walk in," Amy Lightner, M.D., told MedPage Today. In the allogeneic study, the cells will be delivered arterially. In another innovation, Dr. Lightner and colleagues will alter the therapeutic target from the intestinal cells themselves to the extra-cellular vesicles, functional nanoparticles secreted by cells and containing RNA, proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids involved in cell signaling. "We can culture mesenchymal cells and engineer them as immunosuppressives to target the vesicles with less risk and much lower cost per dose—maybe $100 as opposed to $10,000," she explained. Via MedPage Today.

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Cervical Cancer Screenings Lower Than National Data Suggests

A study of Olmsted County women suggests that the percentage of women who are screened for cervical cancer may be much lower than national data says. The Mayo Clinic study, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, found that less than half of women ages 21 to 29 were up-to-date with their cervical cancer screenings in 2016. Less than two-thirds of the women ages 30-65 were up-to-date on theirs. “These cervical cancer rates are unacceptably low,” Mayo Clinic family medicine specialist Kathy MacLaughlin, M.D., the study’s lead author, said in a press release. “Routine screening every three years with a Pap test or every five years with a Pap-HPV co-test ensures precancerous changes are caught early and may be followed more closely or treated.” Dr. Robert Jacobson is a co-author. Via Post-Bulletin.

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Mayo Clinic Uses AI for New Heart Screening Test

The researchers from Mayo Clinic said the technology, which relies on an electrocardiogram (EKG) could detect asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction which affects 7 million Americans. Researchers said the technology could be used as a screening test comparable to other common screening tests such as mammography for the condition which is treatable when identified. They said there is no inexpensive, noninvasive painless screening tool for diagnostic use. “Congestive heart failure afflicts more than 5 million people and consumes more than $30 billion in health care expenditures in the U.S. alone,” said Paul Friedman, M.D., senior author and chair of the Midwest Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Mayo Clinic in a statement. "The ability to acquire a ubiquitous, easily accessible, inexpensive recording in 10 seconds—the EKG—and to digitally process it with AI to extract new information about previously hidden heart disease holds great promise for saving lives and improving health," he says. Via Fierce Healthcare.

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Nixing Flu Vaccine for Hospitalized Patients Could Be Blown Opportunity, Study Suggests

Hospitalized patients vaccinated for the flu did not have an increased risk of outpatient visits or hospital readmission within seven days of discharge, a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found. The study, conducted by Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, built on previous research that found surgical patients who got the flu vaccine during their hospitalization did not have increased risks of complications or delay in discharge compared to those who were not vaccinated during their stay. This retrospective cohort study analyzed the EHRs of over 250,000 patients hospitalized during any of three flu seasons from 2011 to 2014 with admission and discharge dates between September 1 and March 31 of the next year. Via Becker's Hospital Review.

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Flu Cases on the Rise

Thirteen children have died from flu-like symptoms, and cases of flu are rising across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the 2018–2019 flu season gets underway, Tina Ardon, M.D., a Mayo Clinic family medicine specialist, says the flu vaccine remains the best protection against the viral illness. “If you or your family have not yet received an annual flu shot, it's not too late.” Via Mayo Clinic News Network.

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Gina Chiri-Osmond

Gina Chiri-Osmond is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She manages public relations and media outreach. Gina has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2011. Outside of work, Gina is going for gold in volleyball at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo . . . or at small-town summer festivals.

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